After going 2-1 in the Preseason WNIT to start the season, the Michigan State women's basketball team heads south of the border to compete in the Caribbean Challenge Nov. 21-22 in Cancun, Mexico. MSU will play two games at the Moon Palace Resort in Cancun. First up is Northern Illinois on Wednesday, Nov. 21 at 1:30 p.m., followed by a contest against Kansas State on Thursday, Nov. 22 at 9 p.m. Audio of both games will be available at WVFN 730 AM and msuspartans.com, but live stats will not be provided for either game.The Spartans opened the 2007-08 campaign with convincing wins over IUPUI (65-35) and Evansville (73-53) in the first two rounds of the Preseason WNIT in East Lansing. MSU fell in the semifinals at No. 4/4 LSU last Thursday (Nov. 15) in Baton Rouge, La., 64-41.
Both Northern Illinois and Kansas State head to Mexico with 2-1 records. NIU has defeated Bradley (54-48) and Western Illinois (60-59) and lost to Chicago State (64-57). In their last game on Nov. 15, the Huskies beat Western Illinois on a last-second layup with three seconds remaining.
Kansas State returns four starters from last season's team that went 19-15 and advanced to the WNIT Final Four. The Wildcats opened with home wins over Washington and Southern Utah before falling at Wyoming.
MSU IN THE POLLS
Michigan State was ranked 17th in last week's Associated Press poll and 18th in the Coaches' poll. This week's AP poll will be released Monday, Nov. 19, while the Coaches' poll is released on Tuesday, Nov. 20.
CARIBBEAN CHALLENGE INFORMATION
Triple Crown Sports hosts the 2007 Caribbean Challenge which will be held in Cancun, Mexico on Nov. 21-23, 2007.
The women's field features Arizona State, Iowa, Kansas State, Michigan State, Mississippi State, Northern Illinois, Oklahoma and Tulane. Six of the eight teams participating in Cancun advanced to postseason play last season, highlighted by ASU's NCAA Elite Eight achievement and Oklahoma's Sweet 16 showing. Currently positioned in the AP Top 25 Rankings are Oklahoma, Arizona State and Michigan State.
Tipping off the Caribbean Challenge on Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2007, will be Northern Illinois vs. Michigan State and Kansas State vs. Tulane. On the Thanksgiving holiday all eight teams will compete starting with Mississippi State vs. Iowa, followed by Arizona State vs. Oklahoma, Tulane vs. Northern Illinois and Michigan State vs. Kansas State. The final day of competition bids Oklahoma vs. Mississippi State and Iowa vs. Arizona State.
The Caribbean Challenge is sponsored by Triple Crown Sports, which produces women's college basketball events. TCS has run both the Post and Preseason WNIT for the past 14 years.
QUICK LOOK AT THE SPARTANS
â€¢ MSU returns two starters and seven letterwinners from last season's team that went 24-9 and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
â€¢ Sophomore center Allyssa DeHaan set a Big Ten record last season with 145 blocked shots. She is the team's top returning scorer (12.5 ppg) and rebounder (7.5 rpg). A preseason All-Big Ten selection, she was named second-team All-Big Ten last season and was tabbed the Big Ten Freshman of the Year. Through three games, DeHaan leads the team in scoring (14.0 ppg) and rebounding (9.3 rpg). She ranks first in the Big Ten in blocks (19 total, 6.3 bpg).
â€¢ The Spartans lost Aisha Jefferson to a season-ending knee injury in the second exhibition game against Lake Superior State. Jefferson, one of three captains named by Coach Merchant at the beginning of the season, was an honorable mention All-Big Ten pick last year after averaging 10.4 ppg and 5.6 rpg.
â€¢ The other returning starter and co-captain, junior guard Mia Johnson, tore her ACL during summer workouts and is not expected back until the start of the Big Ten season. Johnson averaged 8.3 ppg and 3.9 rpg last season, her first for the Green and White after transferring from Saint Louis University in 2005-06.
â€¢ Senior guards Courtney Davidson (7.0 ppg) and Alisa Wulff (1.0 ppg) and sophomore guards Mandy Piechowski (2.0 ppg) and Takeya Fortner all return for MSU.
â€¢ Sophomore center Lauren Aitch (6.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg), who received a medical redshirt last season due to a torn ACL, is back and healthy this season.
â€¢ The Spartans will rely on a heralded freshman class for minutes this season. The class, ranked among the top 20 in the nation, features point guard Brittney Thomas (5.0 ppg, 5.0 apg) and forwards Kalisha Keane (9.3 ppg), Cetera Washington (8.3 ppg) and Taja Wilson (7.0 ppg). Thomas, Keane and Washington have all started the first three games for MSU. The freshman have combined for 50 percent (89 points) of the team's 59.7 points a game this season.